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Multilingual crews: communication and the operation of ships

Sampson, Helen and Zhao, Minghua 2003. Multilingual crews: communication and the operation of ships. World Englishes 22 (1) , pp. 31-43. 10.1111/1467-971X.00270

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Modern merchant shipping increasingly utilises a global labour market for seafarers. In recent years this trend has been accompanied by increasing technological innovation at sea including the introduction of direct voice–based communication technologies which have made traditional and universal forms of communication at sea, such as Morse lamps, wholly redundant. Thus with the introduction of multilingual crews and the loss of universal forms of communication the importance of English as the ‘lingua franca’ of the sea has become paramount. To improve standards of English amongst seafarers and to militate against accidents and incidents at sea caused by poor communication, a ‘top down’ approach to language learning has been utilised by industry regulators and training establishments. This paper considers the effectiveness of ‘top down’ approaches to language development drawing upon ethnographic research conducted aboard vessels with multilingual crews. It considers the importance of communication on board highlighting both job–related and social interaction and communication, and describing how these cannot be considered in isolation. It concludes that with regard to multilingual crews the evidence suggests that ‘bottom up’ learning is more effective aboard than a ‘top down’ approach. This has implications for seafarers and the shipping industry, but the paper's findings also support the work of linguists advocating ‘immersion’ teaching and learning programmes in providing evidence of the ways in which effective learning and communication occur in a ‘real’ work and social context beyond the confines of a classroom.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
V Naval Science > V Naval Science (General)
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 06:46

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